The Game Tape is Your Resume

Last updated on August 2nd, 2010

Brian Cushing, a linebacker for the Houston Texans, said on ESPN that in the NFL “the game tape is your resume.” There is no need to write your accomplishments down in a file. The game tape simply tells it all. People know who threw in the towel and who fought until the bitter end, leading their team to victory. These days, the same mindset holds for entrepreneurs (and increasingly for business people in general).

It was always true that if you were a corporate executive or commanded lots of press, the world would catch glimpses of your performance through the Wall Street Journal or other business publications. But most people do not land in the national limelight on a regular basis and thus enters the paper resume, a bulleted list with inflated job descriptions and carefully tuned action verbs. If hiring managers only had a game tape, then they would know exactly how you lead, how you think, and how much you contribute to the world. Hell, they might even know if people respect you (does that come through in a pdf resume?).

Congratulations, you now have a bunch of free tools to create your own game tape and show it to the world. Twitter. Facebook. Your blog. LinkedIn. Online videos. Online discussions. Your corporate homepage and bio. Your participation in community events. Go ahead and Google yourself, that’s the best test of your background and performance (that even applies to dating now, it’s not just for hiring managers and investors anymore). Many people have predicted the death of the traditional resume (it can even be considered amateur if you send a resume to a VC or a startup during a job hunt). My point is less about the decreasing need for a resume and more about the increasing need for a game tape. It gives a slightly raw view into who you are, how you think, how you behave, and ultimately how valuable you are to an organization. The more honest it is, the better it will help you end up in the right place over the long-term.

When Union Square Ventures posts a job, they start the process by asking for nothing more than a link to the applicant’s online game tape. No resume. No cover letter. No words that have been carefully crafted for this particular job. Just show me your game tape. Others have followed suit as well (I’m not positive that USV was the first to do this, but they certainly drove the point home).

When LeBron James turned the world upside down with his free agency, he was recruited by everybody who could afford him. Why? They had seen him play. It wasn’t his talent alone that mattered, it was the fact that everybody had seen him play, and they had seen him play a lot. If the exact same LeBron James declared free agency and floated his resume to people who had never seen him play, what kind of contract do you think he would have gotten? So why would you expect different in the business world? Don’t wait until you need a game tape to make one. Make it as you go. Tell the world who you are and how you think. Share some thoughts, take part in discussions, and let your game tape represent you truthfully as you go through your career.

I am not praising LeBron for the way he announced his decision or for his media circus. I strongly believe in loyalty and if he was leaving Cleveland he should have told them that face to face in a closed office. I’ve said before that features can fail and products can fail, but your loyalty can never fail. Ever. People with the best game tapes actually tend to be those who are content in their jobs and aren’t going anywhere (Chris Dixon, Fred Wilson, etc.). My message is that you should represent yourself well and show the world your game tape. Let them see you play. Good things tend to happen.

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